Infinite Matter — Turning plastic waste into art
Can art restore some optimism to the environmental crisis? That is the challenge that TUX Karma and Studio Ascètes are taking up from April 26 to May 14, 2023 at Café-buvette Brouillon with Matière infinie, an art installation that transforms our plastic waste into design objects. Welcome to the place where ecology and art come together to deliver a great message of hope!
The issue we need to resolve
A mere 80 years is all it took for plastic to become truly ever-present in our lives. It’s on our grocery shelves, in the fibres in our clothes, and in our car parts, but also, inevitably, in the ocean, in groundwater... and even in the food we eat.
Its intrusive presence is largely due to the fact that plastic has long been considered to be “disposable.” It has even become a pillar of the so-called linear “produce-consume-and-discard” economy.
Fortunately, times are changing, along with our laws and behaviour. People in Québec have largely adopted waste-sorting. In 2021, 75% of waste products sent to sorting centres came from municipal waste-collection programs, in other words, from citizens*. Gradually, industries, businesses, and institutions are joining the movement.
Despite this great effort, in 2021, only 36% of the plastic discarded in Québec was recycled. The remaining 64%, totalling 158,000 tonnes of plastic waste, ended up in landfills or incinerators.
HDPE plastic (also known as number 2 plastic), which is found in much product packaging (from shower gels to laundry detergent), accounted for 18,000 to 148,000 tonnes of the plastic discarded in 2020 and 2021**. In addition to these alarming figures, there are also unaccounted-for quantities of plastic waste that are neither sorted nor recycled and end up directly in the environment.
At some point in 2021, Olivier Paré, then a space designer at TUX, met Olivier Bonnard, a multidisciplinary artist who had decided to build his environmental beliefs into his artistic practice. He is also one of the co-founders of Studio Ascètes, which transforms waste into design objects.
The teams at TUX Karma work in the world of design, creation, and advertising, where promoting objects that use plastic is part and parcel of their job. Unsurprisingly, our teams are also experiencing a great deal of eco-anxiety.
This was the meeting that set things in motion. How could TUX Karma and Studio Ascètes join forces to turn our shared eco-anxiety into inspired, inspiring, and, above all, useful action?
Nearly two years later in May 2023, TUX Karma launched the Matière infinie project. This exhibition, devised and developed in collaboration with Studio Ascètes, invites us to discover the new “design incarnations” of plastics number 2 (HDPE), number 1 (PET), number 4 (LDPE), number 5 (PP), and number 6 (PS). How was this achieved? Through talent, perseverance, and a large measure of faith in the future!
*Source: La collecte sélective (selective collection), RECYC-QUÉBEC, 2021.
**Source: Étude de caractérisation à l’élimination 2019-2020 (2019-2020 characterization study at disposal), RECYC-QUÉBEC, 2021. (A range of values is provided rather than a specific figure, as some data published in the study combine HDPE with other types of plastic.)
Tables, lampshades, glasses, and stools: at first glance, it’s hard to imagine that the design furniture on display in the Matière infinie exhibition was created using stuff from our trash bins. Nevertheless, the members at Studio Ascètes did indeed recover a colossal quantity of plastic containers, which they went on to clean, melt, and mould.
And the result is an installation in a gallery created for the occasion, in conjunction with TUX Karma teams, at Café-buvette Brouillon in Plaza Saint-Hubert. The venue consists of three small lounges separated by heavy black curtains. The first lounge recalls the innocence of childhood: light and airy, with curved furniture and smooth surfaces that can easily be mistaken for marble. The second lounge immerses us in a more colourful and structured world, that of adulthood, when we are often required to fit into the boxes that society provides. The chess set built right into the table is a nod to the strategies we use to get ahead in the world.
The last lounge, which is darker, more gnarly and yet more fluid, almost vegetal, evokes the age when, after years of trying to fit into a mould, we finally allow ourselves to be ourselves. To make this poetic stage design possible, we had to harness our artistic vision, along with an enormous amount of manual and technical effort.
This is the story told, in words and images, by TUX Karma teams, throughout the gallery. It’s also what the presence of a strange machine, built by Studio Ascètes co-founder Oliver Heaps, hints at. Using a second-hand treadmill, this extruder shreds plastic waste, then melts it and moulds it into design objects.
Matière infinie, which is interactive and open to the public, invites us to touch, see, and feel this substance that we don’t even pay attention to any more because we encounter it everywhere. The teams at TUX Karma, Studio Ascètes, and Café-buvette Brouillon have taken the idea to its extreme, and now you can almost taste the plastic, thanks to a menu inspired by the exhibition.
Eggs, sponge cake, and beets... these simple products, crafted into elegant optical illusions, suggest, for a fleeting moment, that some of this designer plastic has landed onto our plates. The same goes for the cocktails, where a recipe devised for the occasion mirrors the theme of the exhibition.
Changes the project will help bring about
- Raising awareness: reaching out to at least one hundred influential players in the world of arts and design.
- Recognition and understanding: letting the public know about the Studio Ascètes approach.
- Behaviour: encouraging circular re-use of plastic containers.
- Waste recovery: using plastics to produce works.
- Attendance at the exhibition
- Media coverage of the exhibition
- Number of plastic containers collected during the exhibition
- Quantity of plastics collected for the exhibition furniture
TUX Karma’s mission on this project
Artist, Studio Ascètes Co-Founder
Studio Ascètes owes its existence to a desire to provide the world of design and the arts with an alternative to hyper-consumerism and the waste it churns out. Driven by this vision, this artists’ and designers’ collective specializes in making objects, furniture, and art pieces out of waste materials. All year round, studio members explore the potential uses of waste materials, ranging from metals to plastics of various kinds, including PET (No. 1), HDPE (No. 2), LDPE (No. 4), PP (No. 5), and PS (No. 6).
Joanie has been a Graphic Designer and Art Director for five years. Eager to put creation at the service of positive changes, Joanie feels her heart beating when she sees that her work is making a difference, like when she works with foundations and social businesses in which she believes – Accueil Bonneau, Association des Popotes Roulantes du Montréal Métropolitain, Librarylab Foundation, 12/12 Farms and Yaourti. Three years ago, Joanie decided to join forces with TUX, seduced by the company’s values and team spirit – more like that of a “gang of friends without ego” than an advertising agency.
Over the years, Marie-Laurence has developed keen expertise in managing creative digital mandates, including e-commerce and cultural-content projects. She is proud of her work on several interactive exhibitions, such as the BAnQ exhibition and the Leonard Cohen exhibition at Montréal’s museum of contemporary art. Marie-Laurence, who has been a TUX team member for the past three years, was enthused and even excited to work on the Matière infinie project, which allows her to combine her taste for the arts, her professional skills, and her concern for the environment.
Marie-Laurence spends her time reading, asking herself questions, writing, asking herself more questions, and rewriting. When developing a brand’s tone, she creates a voice and personality that are expressed through original ideas and content. This former account manager brings a vision to creative work that is both strategic and pragmatic. She got her agency start at Sid Lee and, over the years, has worked with Polygraphe, McCann, DDB, and finally TUX, where she currently holds the position of bilingual copywriter. Marie-Laurence is an expert in name searches, branding, and advertising concepts who also produces instructional videos at Observatoire, a studio she founded with her partner Maxime.
With 15 years of experience, Olivier is an accomplished interior designer and architectural technologist. Since 2016, he has been honing his expertise in stage and event design with companies such as Circo de Bakuza, Bureau Betak, Sid Lee, TUX and LG2. Olivier is not only passionate about design – he is also truly committed, heart and soul, to making his work a means of building a more sustainable world for future generations.
After launching his own branding studio, BEAU, Simon joined Sid Lee and then TUX, where he focuses his creative passions on fostering the creativity of the talented professionals and clients with whom he works and the creativity that drives TUX Karma. It was with tremendous energy and enthusiasm that this family man plunged into the Matière infinie project. Clearly, the project speaks to him as a designer and artist, but it also gives him a glimpse of the exciting prospect of a more sustainable future for future generations.
Activity and progress
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